Broken Promises: MNR’s Failure to Safeguard Environmental Rights
June 21, 2001
Dear Mr Speaker
In accordance with section 58(4) of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, I present the attached Special Report of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario for your submission to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
I am reporting that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is thwarting public participation and public scrutiny of environmental decision-making by effectively blocking the final steps in a legal process set out in the EBR. I see the need to issue this special report to respond publicly to the long string of broken promises that MNR has made to my office since 1995.
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was established to protect the right of Ontarians to a healthful environment and to promote public participation in environmental decision-making. The EBR explicitly states that the Ontario government has the primary responsibility for achieving these goals.
My mandate as Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is to review how provincial ministries carry out the requirements of the EBR and to report to the Legislative Assembly annually. The EBR also enables me to issue a special report at any time on matters that, in my view, should not wait until the release of my annual report.
This is my second special report since I assumed my duties as Environmental Commissioner on February 1, 2000. I am reporting that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is thwarting public participation and public scrutiny of environmental decision-making by effectively blocking the final steps in a legal process set out in theEBR . I see the need to issue this special report to respond publicly to the long string of broken promises that EBR has made to my office since 1995, each time asserting that the ministry would very shortly be complying with the EBR by “classifying its instruments” – in other words, opening its instruments to public comment and review. Other Ontario ministries classified their instruments years ago. The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) completed this process as early as 1994. MNR’s persistent failure to do the same is not only a breach of the letter and spirit of the EBR , it also frustrates the rights of the public.
The practical effect of MNR’s failure to classify its instruments is that the public cannot use the EBR as it was intended. Over the past five years, our office has been contacted by many Ontario residents with concerns about instruments administered by MNR. Many express shock and disappointment when they learn that MNR’s instruments are still not subject to the public comment, review and appeal rights of the EBR.